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Reporter: Syrian rebels set us up to be shot at by Assad's army

Undeterred by international condemnation, the Syrian military continued its unrelenting shelling of the city of Homs. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

A journalist for Britain's Channel 4 News said Friday he was set up by Syrian rebels to come under fire from government forces as violence continues unabated in the country.

The report comes on the heels of two massacres of civilians in the last two weeks, which have added urgency to talks between foreign powers. A U.N.-backed ceasefire, supposed to have taken effect on April 12, has failed to stop the bloodshed.


Anchor and chief correspondent for Channel 4 News Alex Thomson wrote on Friday that he traveled earlier in the week to the western town of al Qusayr with U.N. officers, who were meeting with civilian and military leaders there. When their meeting dragged on and his reporting deadline approached, Thomson and his team broke off to return to Homs, aware of the risk they ran without a U.N. escort.

Read the full Channel 4 News story: Set up to be shot in Syria's no man's land?

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Channel 4's Alex Thomson.

"Suddenly four men in a black car beckon us to follow," Thomson wrote. "We are led another route. Led in fact, straight into a free-fire zone. Told by the Free Syrian Army to follow a road that was blocked off in the middle of no-man's land."

At that point they came under fire, he said.

Smell of death at the scene of massacre in Syrian village, UN monitors say

Although Thomson told msnbc.com that he could only speculate what the Free Syrian Army's reasons were for leading him into an ambush, he said that he could "see perfectly clear reasons for getting me killed," echoing what he wrote in his report.

"I'm quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus," he wrote.

Thomson and his team were able to escape unharmed.

"Eventually we got out ... and on the right route, back to Damascus," he wrote.

According to Thomson's account, the incident does not appear to be isolated. He received a message on Twitter on Saturday from Nawaf al Thani, an Arab League observer and human rights lawyer, who wrote: 

"@alextomo I read your piece "set up to be shot in no mans land", I can relate as I had that same experience in Al Zabadani during our tour."

Shelling in cradle of uprising
Meanwhile, 17 people, including 10 women, were killed overnight by shelling in the Syrian town of Daraa, where the uprising against President Bashar Assad erupted 15 months ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday. 

Fighting was also reported in Homs and Damascus, killing a total of 44 civilians and 25 on Friday, the group said, showing neither side was respecting the ceasefire, the failure of which has left outside powers divided.

Syrian troops shell rebel city as full-scale assault feared, activists say

"We didn't sleep all night, the situation is a mess, all kinds of explosions and heavy weapons," a Daraa resident who called himself Adnan said via Skype.

"We could hear the blast from the rockets hitting in the neighborhood nearby. If we were afraid, you can imagine how afraid our children are." 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was due to hold a news conference later on Saturday to talk about his proposal to a hold a meeting of nations and groups with influence on Assad's government and its opponents as a way to pressure both sides.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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